AbbVie eyes cancer, immunology in latest protein degradation pact, handing Frontier Medicines $55M upfront
Two years after tiptoeing into the protein degradation space with a discovery pact centered on neurodegeneration, AbbVie is wading deeper to explore the more common applications in cancer and immunological diseases.
The pharma giant is handing Frontier Medicines $55 million upfront to get things started while promising to reimburse its preclinical R&D costs. In addition to drug candidates that target E3 ligases — a key member of the body’s natural degradation system — Frontier will also be scouting small molecule binders to targets.
At the core of Frontier’s platform, CEO Chris Varma previously explained to Endpoints News, is something they call chemoproteomics. By examining temporary pockets in proteins, they find new ways to bind targets usually considered undruggable.
The platform has opened up a vast array of targets, he suggested in a statement. Teaming up with AbbVie will create a shared pipeline separate from its internal one, and the bigger partner will be fully responsible for clinical development once a program crosses the threshold.
Frontier is based out of South San Francisco, just minutes from the R&D hub AbbVie has blueprinted in Oyster Point. In addition to the upfront, it’s eligible for more than $1 billion in milestones, $45 million of which are lined up for the coming year.
Targeted protein degradation and chemoproteomics are among the key strategic focus areas at AbbVie, said Jose-Carlos Gutiérrez-Ramos, VP of discovery.
It’s not alone. Sanofi, Roche, Bayer, Gilead and Vertex have all inked their own protein degradation pacts, highlighting a slate of pioneering as well as up-and-coming players. While cancer targets loom large, immunology is also emerging as a key field of interest.
Back in 2018 the company tapped Mission Therapeutics to unearth some deubiquitylating enzymes to tackle Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. One year ago it chose a panel that’s going into further characterization and screening.